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The 'Energy Bubble' Analogy That Can Help Explain Pacing With a Chronic Illness

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Pacing is about energy conservation, both physical and emotional. When you’re living with a chronic illness, it’s an essential skill for preventing flare-ups or “crashes.” This “energy bubble analogy” can be useful to help you visualize and understand the limits of your energy, and help you explain them to others.

The Energy Bubble Analogy

Imagine yourself enclosed inside a bubble. This bubble represents your available energetic capacity. If you listen to your body, you will learn the limits of your bubble and stay within them.

illustration of a girl sitting cross legged

Routinely pacing your energy allows the energy bubble to slowly expand over time. This increase in available energy gives rise to more consistency in health. You continue to experience “good” and “bad” days, but you always stay within the limits of your bubble. This includes being cautious on the days you feel you have more energy to do things. These times are when you are most vulnerable.

illustration of a girl stretching out her arms and legs in an expanding bubble

If on such a day you push beyond your available energy — you will cross over into delusive energy. Delusive energy is energy you do not have. It is the energy that comes from the drive to do more, a conditioned way of being. It is your mind writing checks your body cannot cash. This pushing is what you were accustomed to during healthier times. However, in chronic illness, pushing results in your energy bubble bursting. Balance is always broken with the use of delusive energy. You now find yourself in a deep crash.

illustration of a girl collapsed in a puddle

While you are in a flare-up, your energy bubble massively shrinks. All of your body’s resources are spent on recovery. This time period can take days, weeks or even months. A decrease in your bubble size directly impacts your ability to enjoy life to its fullest. Continuing the push and crash cycle results in reduced overall energy long-term.

illustration of girl crouched in shrinking bubble

Pacing is a skill learned over time. It requires developing a strong mind-body connection. It looks like consistently checking in and listening to your body’s stop signals. It can be incredibly frustrating at times, and relies on discipline and patience. The rewards of pacing, and an expanded energy bubble, are well worth it.

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Illustrations by Christina Baltais

Originally published: February 15, 2018
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